How to Install a Shower Backsplash

Installing a backsplash in your shower can completely transform the look and feel of your bathroom. A beautiful, durable backsplash protects your walls from water damage while adding visual interest. With some planning and the right materials, installing a shower backsplash is a surprisingly straightforward DIY project.


A shower backsplash (also called a tub surround or wall surround) refers to water-resistant material installed on the walls around a bathtub or shower enclosure. Usually made of tile, metal, acrylic or fiberglass panels, a backsplash prevents moisture damage by deflecting water off the vulnerable drywall or plaster walls.

Additionally, a backsplash serves as a decorative focal point in the bathroom. From sleek subway tiles to elaborate mosaics, backsplash designs can range from classic to contemporary.

Installing a backsplash requires careful preparation and some basic tiling skills. With the proper materials and safety precautions, you can achieve a stylish, water-resistant backsplash that suits your taste and budget.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process of installing a shower backsplash, from choosing the right materials to grouting and sealing the finished product. Let’s get started!

Choosing a Shower Backsplash

Many options exist when selecting a material for your shower backsplash. Consider the pros and cons of each in relation to your project goals, skill level, and budget:



  • Endless style & color options
  • Stunning visual impact
  • Can be installed in creative patterns
  • Extremely durable and water-resistant


  • Requires more skill to install
  • Grout requires regular sealing
  • Dropped tiles can crack and break

Cost – $$-$$$$

Best for – Experienced DIYers seeking a customized, high-end look.

Fiberglass Panels


  • Easy DIY installation
  • Seamless, uniform look
  • Lightweight
  • Resists mold/mildew growth


  • Less personalized style
  • Can scratch/stain over time
  • Joints can separate

Cost – $-$$

Best for – DIYers wanting an affordable, low-maintenance option.

Acrylic Surrounds


  • Built-in soap shelves/grab bars
  • Low maintenance
  • Resists mold and mildew
  • Easy to clean


  • Rigid style options
  • Prone to scratching
  • Can stain over time

Cost – $$

Best for – Those prioritizing convenience and ease of cleaning.

Metal & Stone Tiles


  • Durable, waterproof materials
  • Natural stone adds elegance
  • Distinct contemporary vibe
  • Endless modern styles


  • Natural stone requires sealing
  • Metal can dent
  • Professional installation advised
  • High cost

Cost – $$$-$$$$

Best for – Design enthusiasts seeking a modern, luxe look.

Once you select a material, determine how much you need. Measure the wall area to be covered, allowing for extra tiles in case of breakage. Consult an associate at your local home improvement store for assistance purchasing the necessary quantities.

Preparing the Shower Walls

Proper prep work ensures your backsplash tiles or panels adhere correctly for long-lasting performance. Follow these key steps:

Remove Existing Fixtures

Clean Surfaces Thoroughly

Scrub walls with a bathroom cleaner or bleach solution to remove any soap scum, oils, or dirt. Rinse thoroughly.

Inspect for Damage

Check walls for cracks, loose tiles, leaks, or signs of water damage. Repair any problems prior to installation.

Mark the Tile Layout

Map out your desired tile layout with painter’s tape, pencil markings, or a level. This will guide the installation.

Apply Waterproof Membrane (Optional)

For extra leak protection, coat walls with a waterproofing paint or membrane. Allow to fully dry.

With prep work complete, you’re ready to install the new backsplash. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application steps.

How to Install Tile Backsplash

Tile offers the most creative backsplash options, but requires careful installation. Be sure to:

  • Spread thinset mortar evenly across the wall area using a notched trowel.
  • Press tiles into the mortar, twisting slightly to adhere. Maintain even grout lines.
  • Allow tiles to set 24 hours before grouting.
  • Apply grout between tile joints, wiping away excess.
  • Seal grout lines after they cure to prevent staining and mildew.

Follow a detailed tile installation guide for best results.

How to Install Fiberglass Surround Panels

Fiberglass panels provide a seamless backsplash look without the hassle of grouting. To install:

  • Cut panels to fit your walls using a utility knife or jigsaw.
  • Apply panel adhesive around the edges and wall contact points.
  • Press panels into place, sealing all joints with silicone caulk.
  • Use color-matched silicone along the tub, floor, ceiling and plumbing fixtures.
  • Let panels cure fully before using the shower.

How to Install Acrylic Surrounds

Pre-formed acrylic units feature built-in shelves and soap dishes for added convenience. Follow manufacturer’s instructions, but generally:

  • Clean and dry all surfaces thoroughly.
  • Apply silicone adhesive sealant on the back of the acrylic unit.
  • Carefully lift and press into place, holding briefly to secure.
  • Use silicone sealant around edges and joints. Allow to fully cure.
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaners that could scratch the acrylic surface.

How to Install Metal & Stone Tile

Natural stone and metal tile require special consideration:

For stone:

  • Check that manufacturer approves for wet area usage.
  • Use a flexible thinset mortar to allow for natural movement.
  • Seal tiles after installation to prevent staining/discoloration.

For metal:

  • Use special tile cutters and nippers designed for metal.
  • Metals like copper naturally patina and change color over time.

Consult a tile installation pro for best results with metal and stone.

Grouting Tips

Grout fills joints between tiles, seals out moisture, and allows adjustment for slight tile imperfections. Follow these top tips for success:

  • Wait 24-48 hours after setting tiles before applying grout.
  • Use a rubber grout float or squeegee to force grout into joints.
  • Wipe diagonally across tiles to remove excess grout.
  • Don’t grout joints smaller than 1/8 inch—use silicone sealant instead.
  • Apply grout release or sealer to polished tiles to prevent staining or haze.
  • After grouting, wipe tiles clean with a soft, damp sponge.
  • Allow grout to cure fully before sealing or using the shower.

Regular re-sealing of grout will maintain water resistance and prevent erosion.

Helpful Tools & Materials

Installing a shower backsplash requires having the right tools and materials on hand. Be sure you have:

  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Notched trowel or tile spacers
  • Mixing bucket
  • Grout float
  • Caulk gun
  • Utility knife
  • Safety goggles and gloves


  • Thinset mortar
  • Grout
  • Silicone/tub & tile caulk
  • Grout sealer
  • Backsplash panels or tiles
  • Adhesive and membranes (if needed)

Safety Tips

Tile cutting and installation requires safe practices:

  • Use sharp tile cutters carefully and wear gloves.
  • Wear eye protection when cutting or drilling tile.
  • Follow directions when mixing mortar, thinset, or grout.
  • Clean up spills right away to avoid slip risks.
  • Work carefully on ladders or steps to avoid falling.
  • Avoid breathing tile dust by wearing an N95 mask.
  • Keep children and pets away from the work area.

Take your time and focus on safety throughout the installation process.

Hiring a Pro vs. DIY Installation

Installing a backsplash yourself can save on labor costs, but consider your skills, time, and project scope to decide if hiring a professional is right for you.

Professional installation benefits:

  • Experienced with all backsplash materials
  • Specialized tools for cutting
  • Knowledge of building codes/standards
  • Insured and licensed
  • Warranties offered on work

DIY installation benefits:

  • Greater cost savings
  • Personalized design decisions
  • Learn a new skill
  • Sense of accomplishment
  • More room for error

Consult a contractor for a quote to see if it fits your budget. They can also assess if your project is doable as a DIY.

Maintaining Your Shower Backsplash

Follow these maintenance tips to keep your backsplash looking its best:

  • Use a squeegee after showering to prevent soap scum buildup.
  • Avoid abrasive cleaners which can dull or damage the finish.
  • Re-apply grout sealer every 1-2 years.
  • Recaulk joints when needed to prevent leaks.
  • Repair any cracks or damage right away.
  • Keep walls dry other than when showering to prevent mold growth.

With proper care, your shower backsplash will maintain its beauty and waterproofing protection for many years.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to common questions about installing shower backsplashes:

What is the easiest shower backsplash to install?

Fiberglass surround panels are the easiest option for DIY installation. Acrylic units with built-in shelves are also beginner-friendly.

What is the most waterproof backsplash material?

Tile and stone offer the best waterproofing when properly sealed. Fiberglass is also highly water-resistant and prevents leaks.

How do I cut tile for an outlet or faucet?

Use a tile wet saw or manual cutter to precisely cut an opening. Or use a drill hole bit for circular openings. Finish edges with silicone.

Can I install a backsplash over existing tile?

Yes, new tile or other materials can be installed over old tile if the existing tile is firmly attached. Scrape off old grout first.

How long does a backsplash installation take?

Budget 2-3 days as a DIYer – one day for prep work, 1-2 days for installation. Projects with intricate tile layouts will require more time.


Adding a backsplash is one of the best ways to enhance your shower’s appearance while guarding against water damage and mold growth. With the right materials and safety precautions, you can tackle a DIY backsplash installation and save on labor costs.

Follow the techniques outlined here for prepping walls, proper tile installation, and expert grouting. Maintain your finished backsplash by using a squeegee, gentle cleaners, and keeping walls dry when not in use.

A stunning new shower backsplash brings visual appeal to your bathroom and can increase the value of your home. Just take it step-by-step to achieve durable, beautiful results.